Building Leaders Who Build the Future: Aligning Talent Strategies with Business Goals

We hear it again and again: People are a company’s most important asset. Even the most brilliant, well-thought-out competitive strategy simply won’t come off without the right people in the right places to make it happen.

Why the disconnect? Even companies that recognize the critical role culture plays in aligning talent strategies with business goals and the importance of that alignment lose sight of this big-picture goal in the day-to-day effort to manage a growing business. It’s also a lot harder to shape or do something about, noted Rutger von Post, a principal in the Strategy& People and Organization Strategy Practice, who defines culture as an organization’s self-perpetuating pattern of behaviors, thoughts, feelings, mindsets and beliefs and suggests identifying and leveraging those patterns.

“No culture is all good or all bad—every culture has strengths and weaknesses,” he explained. “So one can pinpoint the things that make an organization special, the plus column of the culture. What are the aspects of the cultural traits or characteristics that your organization may have that make people proud and want to go above and beyond?”

“No culture is all good or all bad—every culture has strengths and weaknesses.”

At companies like Southwest Airlines, culture is embedded throughout the entire talent management process. Employees identify with the company’s commitment to the customer experience and their own roles in fulfilling that commitment. That culture is so deeply embedded that it now self-perpetuates—which is ultimately the holy grail of a corporate culture that aligns talent and corporate strategy, noted Amy Ross, CEO of HumanKind HR.

“At companies that do it really well, culture is embedded throughout the entire talent-management process,” she said. “It’s how they bring people through the door, it’s reinforced through performance management and it’s how they develop leaders.”

Managing Millennials

As many business leaders are all too aware, 2015 marked the first year that millennials surpassed preceding generations to make up the largest part of the U.S. workforce. Despite their increasing prevalence within corporate ranks, the nation’s youngest workers remain something of a mystery to employers—which makes recruiting and retention all the more challenging. “For me, it’s all about increasing retention,” noted Azura Memory Care CEO Josh McClellan. “About 45% of our team members are millennials, so we need to find out what make them tick.”

The good news? There are steps that companies can take to appeal to the nation’s newest and now largest generation of workers. PwC, which is now a year into an organization-wide talent
transformation effort, found that offering up-to-date technology experience was important to its youngest employees.

CEO Roundtable 1“Things like having a modern technology experience are important to the millennial generation,” noted PwC’s Jeff Hesse. “It used to be that corporations had the best technology you could find; but now people often have better technology at home than at work.”

Millennials also expect real-time feedback rather than annual performance reviews, which is actually a plus for the companies that provide it. “If the only feedback that a sports team gets is at the end of the season, it’s probably not going to be a very good sports team,” noted Hesse, who reports that the company’s efforts have been fruitful. “Our retention is the best it’s ever been and, most recently, we were named the No. 2 ‘employer brand of choice’ by millennials, coming in just behind Google—not bad for a stodgy old accounting firm.”


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